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Cognitive cities mark the third wave of smart city evolution and modelling the impact of digital innovations is essential

Metaverse was a constant theme at #LEAP2023 – the international technology conference hosted in Riyadh. It’s easy to see why. The metaverse – or metaverse universe – has captured the imagination and presents multiple visions of the future. Speaking on stage at the LEAP Orbital Talks – Smart Cities (Imagining the Future of Cognitive Cities; Digital Twins, the Metaverse and Modelling the Future) my aim was to qualify the current excitement around metaverse with an objective view of its real-world benefits.

Gaming, entertainment and luxury retail may be the current focus of excitement but we can see real potential in enterprise, manufacturing, education and other verticals and in cognitive cities (one of the most distinctive features of urban development in the region and where we play a very active role). Cognitive cities mark the third wave of smart city evolution and modelling the impact of digital innovations is essential.

Digital twins provide the opportunity to simulate, analyse data and predict innovation impacts quickly and cost effectively before applying them in the physical world, identifying potential issues, opportunities and minimising risk. Digital twins are guiding city planners through dynamic modelling and prediction, helping improve the management of everything from energy to waste, safety and security, mobility, and infrastructure.

Gartner defines digital twins as “a digital representation of a real-world entity or system, an encapsulated software object or model that mirrors a unique physical object, process, organization, person or other abstraction. Data from multiple digital twins can be aggregated for a composite view across a number of real-world entities, such as a power plant or a city, and their related processes.”

Many of the world’s most ambitious projects are in the Middle East thanks to the vision and leadership here but they are still complex and costly and demand new thinking. Digital twins can model projects in a virtual world. They’re now being called the “building blocks of the metaverse”, which promises us immersive virtual and augmented reality experiences, and a testbed for replication of real-world things in cities.

The metaverse will rely on data to make improvements to trial models. Cognitive cities, with thousands of IoT-connected sensors, gather data 24/7 providing continuous insights to cities to make better-informed decisions about services for citizens. The metaverse can give cities a platform to more fully test services designed to improve things like air quality, energy consumption and supply, available parking spaces, pedestrian and bicycle traffic, the number of vehicles on the roads, and more. It’s an exciting prospect, and initiatives are already underway in forward-looking cities to become “metaverse cities”.

Dubai recently announced plans to create a digital twin in the metaverse, designed to give companies and residents a virtual world where ideas can be shared and projects tested. This seems to present an ideal environment to test out new smart city services or smart buildings before moving in. This is a sensible way to reduce risk and ensure things work effectively before investing. And with spending on smart cities technology in the Middle East & Africa region set to double in the coming four years, from $1.3 billion to $2.7 billion, minimising risk looks like a smart move.

I find it helps to focus on specific, potential use cases of metaverse universes. Cognitive cities seem like a perfect balance of virtual testing possibilities informing physical, real-world projects and represents the next logical step forward in digital twins and the evolution of building information modelling (BIM). BIM information tells you, for example, where a building is located on a site and how many floors, rooms, corridors, stairs, and other components it contains. BIM helps inform construction methods, deadlines, costs, maintenance operations, and so on. Digital twins give us constantly updated sources of information, ongoing intelligence about how a model is working and where we can make improvements to it.

Combine this in an immersive virtual model that lets you walk around a smart building – or a cognitive city – and the potential for the metaverse could be significant, with a straight pathway from digital twins to the metaverse.

Whether we view metaverse as an alternative or augmented reality, or as a model for a future physical reality, interest will grow with experience. Sustainable cognitive cities offer our best hope in meeting the next big societal challenge – climate change – and will play a vital role as incubators of human and digital innovation. Digital twin technology can help building owners, city planners and governments. According to recent EY research, digital twins could deliver significant savings on project and building costs and help track and reduce carbon emissions within our cities, while supporting energy transition.

The metaverse is still being invented, as is the ‘Internet of the Future’ but we know that high-performance, low-latency, and resilient networks are a prerequisite for its development. Whatever the future holds, most importantly, we aim to help develop an open, safe, ethical metaverse that puts the user’s needs first and is socially and environmentally responsible.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Sahem Azzam

Quelle/Source:, 07.02.2023

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